Oakland’s Options for Hayden

When the Oakland Raiders drafted D.J. Hayden—a cornerback from University of Houston—with Sharrif Floyd still available, it stunned many fans and experts alike.

Floyd had been almost unanimously predicted to go to the Raiders with the third pick before Oakland traded down to No. 12.  

Nonetheless, Hayden, not Floyd, will be playing as a member of the Silver and Black.  He's an interesting addition to the defensive backfield, which has also added Tracy Porter and Michael Jenkins via free agency this offseason.  

As with any rookie, especially a rookie drafted in the first round, the question is now about how much playing time Hayden will get and where he will fall on the depth chart.

The Raiders have Porter and Jenkins penciled in at the top entering the 2013 season, and Hayden will surely have to unseat one of them to be a starter.  The Raiders (like any NFL team) want to win as much as they can, so the best players will play, rebuilding or not.

It is possible that if the Raiders struggle again this year, like in 2012, that Hayden would get more playing time late in the season once the team's fate is determined.

Once training camp opens, I would expect to see Hayden coming on the field on passing downs as an extra cornerback.  The nickle-corner is the first cornerback off the bench, and there is no shame in a rookie being right behind two veterans to open camp.

Hayden could get an opportunity to start as early as his second season.  Porter is on a one-year contract after signing as a free agent.  If Hayden shines as a nickelback, then he could make Porter expendable.

Don't look for Hayden to start right away though.  Look for him to open camp ahead of Philip Adams and Coye Francies, but behind Porter and Jenkins.

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